Panel Ponders Shifts In Districts

Changes In Population Lead To Inequities In Voter Representation

August 04, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Some residents of County Council District B, which encompasses the Fallston area, might find themselves shifted into new voting districtscome election time in 1994.

That's just one of the proposed changes a five-member Harford County Redistricting Commission is considering as it tries to ensure equal population representation in the six County Council districts.

"The main thing voters should care about is that their vote should have the same weight as someone else's vote," said commission member Glenn A. Brown.

"The way the county's districted now, a voter inone district -- his influence is 30 percent less than a voter in another district. This way, their vote will have the same power."

So far, commission members have drafted six plans in their effort to even up the population of each district based on the 1990 Census.

Thedistrict likely to face the most changes is District B, represented by Republican Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott.

That's because District B, with a population of 39,512, is the largest of the six districts, said Robert E. Corkran, commission chairman. He said the ideal district should have 30,355 people, which means that District B is 30 percent above the ideal.

"And that means you have to move some precincts," Corkran said.

The commission's most drastic proposal wouldshift 11 of Harford's 40 voting precincts into other districts, Corkran said. The plan that would shift the least number of precincts would move five of them.

Corkran said the commission arrived at the ideal district size by dividing the county's 1990 population of 182,132 by six. About a 5 percent variation above or below the ideal in a given district is allowed, he said.

But even allowing for a 5 percent variation means District A, represented by Republican Susan B. Heselton, has the opposite problem from District B, said Corkran.

There are 25,086 people living in District A -- that's 5,296 or 17 percent fewer people than there should be, he said.

Corkran said commission members are trying to avoid moving lines in such a way that incumbents who represent districts that share a border would be forced toface off in the next council elections in 1994.

The seventh council member, the council president, is elected at-large.

Corkran, a retail support specialist for Southern States, said the commission will probably select a plan this week and present it to the council in October.

Other redistricting commission members include Harford Community College Professor Avery Ward, former state Senator Catherine I. Riley and Sally Willis Rogers, who operates a consulting firm.

"If you're in one of the precincts that is moved, your representativewill change, but there will not be two incumbents residing in the same district to avoid pitting incumbents against one another," said Corkran.

The biggest problem the commission has faced is the size ofindividual precincts, Corkran said. The smallest precinct, just outside the Aberdeen town limits, has 864 people, compared to Edgewood, the largest precinct, which includes 10,557 people.

"For example, if you took a precinct away from District A, and moved it to District B, District A's population would be so much lower you would have to put something back," said Corkran.

"The only problem is you can't change the precinct lines. Overall, two districts had to lose people, and four had to gain in population."

District C, represented by Democrat Theresa M. Pierno, also will lose precincts to come closer to the ideal district size, said Corkran.

District D, represented by Republican Barry T. Glassman; District E, represented by Republican Robert S. Wagner; and District F, represented by Democrat Philip J. Barker, all must be made larger, Corkran said.

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